It may be time for a strike.
No, no, not public employees, although you’re welcome to join us.
It’s time for professional football fans to go on strike and the players would be wise to join us.
This lockout of NFL officials that started in June must come to an end. And if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL Referees Association can’t reach an immediate agreement, it may be up to the fan base and players to provide some stimulus.
If you are not an NFL fan, you may not know what happened Monday night in Seattle, Wash.
The Seattle Seahawks were playing the Green Bay Packers. The first half was ugly.
The Packers offensive line could do little to stop the Seahawk rushers, with Quarterback Aaron Rodgers getting sacked eight times.
There were some questionable calls both made and not made by the replacement referees, which has stained this season from the first week.
The NFL locked out its unionized referees in June when their contract expired. The NFL is offering its part-time officials, who make $100,000 a year plus generous benefits, a 7-percent raise, but wants to switch their retirement to a 401(k)-style pension plan.
The officials threw a red flag at that offer and the deadlock began.
But anyone who thinks that just anyone can replace a seasoned NFL referee, should have another think coming after the second half of Monday night’s game. Actually, just the final seconds would prove enough time.
Green Bay had resumed the lead as the seconds ticked away. The Packers led 12 to 7 with only enough time remaining for one more play. Seattle Quarterback Russell Wilson threw a 24-yard Hail Mary pass into the end zone to receiver Golden Tate.
But Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields stood in front of Tate, who shoved him to the ground – a clear offensive pass interference penalty which should have ended the game with a Packers’ victory.
But the penalty went unnoticed or at least uncalled.
As Tate jumped to catch the pass, Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings leapt a little higher and got both hands on the ball, clutching it to his chest as he fell on top of Tate.
But the Seahawk player had one arm under Jennings arms and draped one arm over Jennings who continued to clutch the ball.
The officials rushed to the struggling pile. The first official signaled an interception – another game-ender. But the second official signaled a touchdown.
The 67,000 capacity CenturyLink Stadium erupted, with Seahawk fans overjoyed at the last-minute turn of events.
Maybe that chaos caused it. But there was no deliberation to settle the different rulings. There was no call from the officials’ booth on the offensive pass interference play.
It was a fiasco. And it’s increased the call for the lockout to be settled.
But even if the referees and the league reach an agreement as you’re reading this, it will be at least another week before the more experienced officials will return to the field.
Games tonight, this weekend and Monday, Oct. 1, still will be officiated by the replacements no matter what gets accomplished.
It’s difficult for a fan to keep things in perspective, but no game gets lost by a single bad call.
If Rodgers had scored a touchdown in the first half – his usual practice -- that last Wilson touchdown wouldn’t have mattered.
But there’s more to this dispute than just the fans’ blood pressure level. There’s also the safety of the players.
Too many dangerous penalties are being missed by the less-experienced officials. Rules concerning helmet-to-helmet hits have been tightened the past few years to cut down on head and neck injuries. But this season’s lax officiating is allowing too many deadly hits to get by the officials.
Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was knocked unconscious Sunday and left the field strapped to a stretcher. Fortunately, he suffered only a minor concussion and neck strain.
But Chris Smith, writing for Forbes magazine on-line, noted that quarterbacks Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo also received vicious hits despite “especially stringent rules about hitting the passer.”
Safety of the players, as well as the integrity of the game, is at stake.
We all have to wait and see if Monday night’s mess provides Goodell and the referees’ association with the motivation to get some ink on paper and get the officials back to work.
If nothing gets done, the NFL Players Association should consider its own strike for the safety of its members.
And maybe it’s time for NFL fans to turn the TV off until the game can be played by its rules.
The NFL and the NFL Referees Association have reached a tentative deal. Although the membership has yet to ratify it, regular officials will return to the field for tnight’s game.
According to CNN, the deal will last eight years and includes details about officials' pensions and retirement benefits and adds a pay bump from $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013. The pay will rise to $205,000 by 2019.
The agreement will also allow the NFL to hire some officials on a year-round basis and hire additional referees so they can be trained.
"This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
CNN noted the accord ends a “lockout that began before the league's preseason, leading to a series of gaffes that climaxed in a furor over a botched call that allowed the Seattle Seahawks to walk away with a victory in Monday night's nationally televised game. The league acknowledged Tuesday that the Green Bay Packers should have won, but allowed the result of the game to stand.”